A new neighbor is moving on to the street where the “air is sweet.” After 52 years on air, Sesame Street is adding its first AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) muppet, a 7-year-old Korean-American named Ji-Young. The young girl will be performed by Sesame Workshop puppeteer Kathleen Kim, and is slated to make her big debut in Sesame Street‘s upcoming Thanksgiving special: “See Us Coming Together: A Sesame Street Special.”
While Sesame Street is saving Ji-Young’s big introduction for the special, the show has already shared a bit about their newest (and pretty cool sounding) resident. According to AP, Ji-Young is an avid electric guitar player with a passion for skateboarding, with much of her personality based on that of her puppeteer, Kim. Ji-Young herself also shared the story behind her name, and how it coincidentally meant she was destined to live on Sesame Street:
“So, in Korean traditionally the two syllables they each mean something different and Ji means, like, smart or wise. And Young means, like, brave or courageous and strong,” Ji-Young explained during a recent interview. “But we were looking it up and guess what? Ji also means sesame.”
However, while Ji-Young is the first Asian-American muppet to join the show, she is not the first Asian-American character. Cast member Alan Muraoka, who plays Alan, the owner of Hooper’s Store, is Japanese-American and has been a staple of Sesame Street since 1998. In fact, the long-time Sesame Street star will actually be co-directing Ji-Young’s debut special, “See Us Coming Together,” on November 25. In addition to Muraoka, several AAPI stars — such as actors Simu Liu and Anna Cathcart, comic book artist Jim Lee, chef Melissa King, television personality Padma Lakshmi, and tennis great Naomi Osaka — will all make an appearance on the special to welcome the children show’s newest resident.
For those who might be wondering why the show chose now to introduce Ji-Young, executive vice-president of Creative and Production for Sesame Workshop Kay Wilson Stallings said it is a direct response to this year’s rise in anti-Asian hate crimes and the growing need for children’s shows to address racism. According to Stallings, the company reflected on how they could “meet the moment,” and decided if they were going to address the treatment of AAPI people, they needed to have proper representation and a clear voice to help deliver the message, and Ji-Young (through her puppeteer, Kim) seemed just the person to do it.
Surely, this is something even Ted Cruz can’t take issue with.